From Bobotie to Biltong and Beyond
all that wandering about requires some hearty chow. thanks to the wide range of cultures that have landed in south africa over its history, there are plenty of big flavors to choose from. vegetarians beware: south africans are fairly meat obsessed. it’s mutton all around as you go north, and in cape town and beyond, whole stores are dedicated to selling biltong, the south african version of beef jerky. (not meat shy? try the eland biltong. really.) here are some of the specialties to look for as you move up the coast.
genuine south african cuisine: treat yourself to a special experience by calling mymoena poggenpoel a few days before you head toward cape town. less than an hour away, in the fishing village of kalk bay, poggenpoel cooks for tourists in her home. as long as she’s not busy, she’ll whip up specialties such as bobotie (a highly spiced dish of minced meat over rice), rock lobster, sardine cakes, or a spicy chicken curry. the heat builds slowly, but it gets there. (011-27-21-788-7179)
rooibos tea: grown only on the western coast of south africa, rooibos is the default tea in that country -- and a very tasty one at that. to see how it’s grown, consider taking a tour of the groenkol rooibos tea estate, just outside of clanwilliam. to book a tour, contact annette or chris du plessis. (011-027-27-482-2022, www.elandsberg.co.za)
braai chicken: it’s the rare home in south africa that doesn’t have an outdoor barbecue, known as a braai. if you can’t befriend a local or two, try mzoli’s place (ny 115, shop 3, guguletu, cape town; 011-27-21-638-1355) or cape courtyard restaurant (kronendal estate, 142 main road, hout bay; 011-27-21-790-5837).
fried hake: forget cod; in south africa, hake is king of the deep fry (along with calamari). your best bet for fresh-as-can-be hake? the takeout shops in the commercial fishing and seaside towns that pepper the coast.
malva pudding: a spongy, sweet cake made with apricot jam and plenty of sugar and topped with custard.
koeksisters: take a short braided piece of fried dough, dip it in sugar syrup, and eat. your teeth will hurt. the rest of you will be happy.
If You Go...
in some towns, hotel rooms are few and far between. to make life easy, reserve rooms in advance. hotels to consider along the way include:
andros boutique hotel in cape town
bushmans kloof wilderness reserve and retreat
clanwilliam lodge in clanwilliam
the farmhouse hotel in langebaan
lambert’s bay hotel in lamberts bay
melkboomsdrift guest lodge in vredendal
old mill lodge in springbok
sophia guest house in garies
if you’d rather pay attention to the sights and leave the driving (and guiding) to the pros, set up a customized tour through cape town-based specialized tours (www.specialtours.co.za).